The Pimm's Cup Cocktail Has Taken Many Boozy Forms

Avid tennis fans would recognize a Pimm's Cup as the favored cocktail of Wimbledon, much as the mint julep became the traditional tipple of the Kentucky Derby in America. A refreshing, quintessentially British concoction, Pimm's Cup is made from a gin-based liqueur (Pimm's No. 1) mixed with the English version of lemonade (similar to Sprite or 7up), served with ice and garnished with fruit and mint. Fans of the cocktail might be surprised to learn that Pimm's Cup, also referred to as Pimm's No. 1 Cup, the iconic rusty-colored liqueur that forms the base of the drink, hasn't always been the only Pimm's available. As the numerical designation implies, the drink has taken many boozy forms over the years.

The original Pimm's Cup dates back to the 1840s, developed by a fishmonger named James Pimm who opened a series of restaurants known as Pimm's Oyster Warehouse. That initial version was created and touted as a health tonic and featured quinine in addition to gin, fruit peels, herbs, and botanicals. Gin remained the standard for Pimm's Cup until an entrepreneur named Sir Horatio David Davies, who bought Pimm's restaurants in 1870, expanded the lineup to include different liquor bases, each with its own number.

A Pimm's Cup for every season

In the 1930s, Davies, who distributed Pimm's throughout the British empire, introduced Pimm's No. 2 Cup, which used Scotch, and Pimm's No. 3 Cup, which utilized brandy as the base. But he wasn't done yet. The advent of Pimm's No. 4 Cup, which featured rum, came in 1935. It was marketed as a wintertime beverage in contrast to the summertime appeal of the original Pimm's No. 1 cup. The rye whiskey-based Pimm's No. 5 Cup,  soon followed, initially distributed only in Canada, but later sold in the UK as well. Lastly, Pimm's No. 6 Cup, made with vodka, emerged on the scene.

If none of these other Pimm's cups sound familiar, it's because they didn't hang around for very long. A company called Diageo purchased the product line in 1969, and (somewhat inexplicably) wasted no time kicking Pimm's No. 2-5 cups to the curb. Eventually, the vodka version disappeared from shelves as well. The original Pimm's No. 1 Cup was retained because gin is king in Britain. But that wasn't the last of the other Pimm's. The rum and vodka Pimm's were brought back in 2004 and rebranded as Winter Cup and Vodka Cup. In addition to these varieties, innovative bartenders around the world appreciate Pimm's No. 1 for its relatively low-alcohol content and agreeable flavor and use it as a base for a countless variety of cocktails.